Land Revitalization Fall '05 Newsletter – Abandoned Gas Station Now Aesthetic Greenspace in Historic Wilmington
The Hi-Tech gas station was anything but in 2001, when economic development officials in the City of Wilmington, Del. became interested in it.
Today, the site has been converted into the Brandywine Village Green. It combines aesthetic green space with a useful parking lot and a public demonstration of creative stormwater runoff reduction .
The Hi-Tech gas station had been an abandoned eyesore since 1995, and it sat smack in the middle of Brandywine Village, a charming historic neighborhood dating back to Colonial times. The neighborhood is mostly residential with a small commercial district of historic homes that have been converted into businesses.
City officials, anxious to be rid of this eyesore, went to work on researching the ownership of the Hi-Tech gas station in 2001. After a year, they determined that the site had several owners behind one company called Punjab, Inc.
While the ownership research was underway, the city was also looking into evidence of petroleum leaks in 1993 and 1997. The underground storage tanks on the premises had been emptied but were still in the ground, so soil contamination was expected.
Because of the many violations on the property and in the site's history, both the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the City's Revenue Enforcement office began enforcement proceedings as a way to motivate the owner to sell at lower than market value.
As the owner of the property moved closer to selling at a price the city could afford, the Office of Economic Development (OED) began building a case for the city to purchase the property. At this juncture, partnerships with local community groups became critical.
The OED realized that in order to convince Wilmington's City Council to buy the property, they would need to present them with a reuse plan. To develop this plan, the city turned to the Greater Brandywine Village Revitalization Group, which had a reuse plan for the Brandywine Village District that included the Hi-Tech site, and other community organizations.
This plan envisioned this site as combining with neighboring sites to become a mixed-use, retail office and village green. Because there was no immediate interest from developers in the beginning of this larger project, the City and its community partners decided that either a park or a parking lot would fulfill their three immediate goals: meeting the needs of Brandywine Village; cleaning up the site; and keeping redevelopment costs low.
This project was made possible, in part, by an EPA Underground Storage Tank pilot grant of $100,000 to the state of Delaware to assess abandoned petroleum sites, and a Brownfields Assessment Demonstration pilot grant of $400,000 to the City of Wilmington.